In chapter ten we read about the publication of Elizabeth Prentiss’ most popular novel, Stepping Heavenward. No doubt this book is well loved by many of you. Over a year ago, Kristin posted some brief thoughts on this book, a work that continues to encourage women even in the twenty-first century. We’ve reposted her comments below for you to enjoy.
Chapter eleven covers a time period when Elizabeth published several more works—among them Aunt Jane’s Hero, “an ‘advice’ manual on courtship and marriage cast in the form of a novel.”
On page 233 of Elizabeth Prentiss: ‘More Love to Thee’ you will find a list of current works by Elizabeth Prentiss still in print. You can purchase Aunt Jane’s Hero along with several others from Calvary Press. A.B. Publishing has made still more of her works available, and Solid Ground Christian Books has reprinted Golden Hours: Heart-Hymns of the Christian Life. We hope this study of Elizabeth Prentiss’ life has encouraged you to read more of this godly woman’s writings.
Please read the final chapter, twelve for next week. And stick around for the Friday Funnies.
August 17, 2005
Several years ago, in between the births of my sons Andrew and Liam I suffered two miscarriages in a row. When I was walking through the disappointment of my first miscarriage, my friend Nadia gave me the book Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss.
In this book, Elizabeth’s fictional character Katy begins as a selfish teenager, and Elizabeth brings us into her thoughts, struggles, and sin. Then she takes us on the journey of Katy’s life as she embraces her call as a wife and mother. We are able to see up close the Lord’s work in her life as she walks through much trial and suffering.
As I found my soul tempted towards discouragement and unbelief, Prentiss’ (loosely autobiographical) character’s suffering put mine in perspective. She lost one of her children and experienced significant physical challenges that confined her to her room for lengthy seasons. Yet as she passed through this shadow of death she took hold of Scripture and began to embrace a God-centered perspective on her trials.
As Katy recounts:
“During my long illness and confinement to my room, the Bible has been almost a new book to me, and I see that God has always dealt with His children as He deals with them now, and that no new thing has befallen me. All these weary days so full of feebleness, these nights so full of unrest, have had their appointed mission to my soul. And perhaps I have had no discipline so salutary as this forced inaction and uselessness, at a time when youth and natural energy continually cried our for room and work.”
Whatever my days and nights hold, my confidence is this: they always have their appointed mission to my soul. Whether it’s the significant trial of a miscarriage or the simple daily temptations faced in just patiently caring for my two-year-old, I can be sure that in every day the Lord has an appointed mission for my soul.
Ultimately my hope and joy rest not in my circumstances. Whether my days are happy or difficult, whether I experience loss or gain. God’s word points me to the joy that is unshakeable, the joy of knowing peace with Him, through Jesus Christ. Prentiss’ character, Katy, found in God the same unshakeable joy. And these are her words on a particularly happy day:
“This is the 10th anniversary of our wedding day and it has been a delightful one. If I were called upon to declare what has been the chief element of my happiness I would say it was not Ernest’s love to me or mine to him or that I am once more the mother of three children or that my own dear mother still lives, though I revel in each and all of these. But underneath them all, deeper, stronger than all, lies a peace with God that I can compare to no other joy, which I guard as I would guard hidden treasure, and which must abide even if all other things pass away.”
I want to be faithful to guard that hidden treasure of peace with God, whether in joy and prosperity, or in suffering.
A birth took place in our family today. And no, it wasn’t Tori. She’s still comfortably waiting until someone forces her into this big wide world.
This delivery is the edited manuscript of our book, Shopping for Time, to Lydia, our editor at Crossway Books. God was very gracious to allow us to finish before baby Tori’s arrival!
Thank you to all of you who prayed for us these past few weeks. We experienced God’s mercy in numerous ways—sustaining grace for early morning hours of writing, wisdom and clarity for what direction to take the book, and insightful edits from Dad.
We wanted to share an opening illustration (unedited, mind you) from one of the chapters. Our prayer for this book is the same as the one we had for Girl Talk. It’s from Philip Doddridge: “However weak and contemptible this work may seem in the eyes of the children of this world, and however imperfect it really be, [may it] nevertheless live before thee; and through a divine power, be mighty to produce the rise and progress of religion.”
“When Kristin’s three energetic boys visit Mom-Mom’s house, they burst in the door—all smiles and yells—and run several laps around her kitchen, hallway and sitting rooms before coming to a stop…but only for a moment…in front of the jelly-bean jar. Candy in fists, they’re off again. In fact, wherever they are—at home, church, or in the store—Andrew, Liam and Owen are one big happy bundle of constantly moving arms and legs. They jump up and down, wrestle incessantly, and run in circles if there is nothing better to do. Sitting still: not exactly their forte. So, in an effort to teach them this refined art, Kristin recently instituted “No Moving, No Talking, No Touching (oh, and No Silly Faces) Time.” For fifteen minutes or more each day, the boys must sit on the couch with feet forward, folded hands in laps, and of course, no moving, talking, touching (or silly faces!) while Kristin reads to them. You can see the tension in their little bodies—which explodes the minute the kitchen timer rings and they bound off to one of their favorite activities such as climbing a tree, sword fighting, or kicking the soccer ball. Sitting still is hard work for little boys. It’s not easy for us women either. We’re doers, not sitters by nature. We awake each morning, our minds whirling with all we want to accomplish that day. We bound off to complete these urgent tasks. But we must sit before we do. In order to effectively shop for time, we must first sit—sit at Jesus’ feet.”
We have had some warm weather this week, which has sent Mike on a smoothie-making kick. Actually, all of our men love smoothies, but Brian is the only one who owns the VillaWare® Double Smoothee-Bar™ Blender & Serve. (No, I’m not kidding! He actually has a special smoothie-making blender. I found a picture to impress you.) Mike, Steve, and Chad are stuck with boring old “normal blenders,” but that doesn’t hold them back. Dad relies on Mom to make his fruit drink. I’m not sure he knows how to use a blender! We thought it would be fun to let you in on some of the men’s favorite smoothie recipes so that you can try them out if you are so inspired.
Steve’s Strawberry Banana 2 c. vanilla ice cream 1 ½ c. fresh strawberries 1 banana 2 tsp. sugar 2 tbsp. lemon juice Splash of milk for consistency
Combine all ingredients and blend.
Brian’s Blueberry Maple 1 c. blueberry yogurt ¾ c. milk 1 tbsp. maple syrup ½ tsp. ground cinnamon 2 c. fresh blueberries, frozen
Combine first four ingredients. Then add blueberries. Blend until smooth consistency.
Brian’s Banana Coffee 1 c. milk ¾ c. strong brewed coffee, room temperature 2 c. fresh bananas, frozen and sliced 6-8 ice cubes ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Combine milk and coffee. Add bananas and blend until smooth. With the blender running, open top and add ice cubes until desired consistency.
Dad’s Orange Creamsicle 1 c. orange juice ¼ c. half-and-half 2 tbsp. vanilla flavored syrup
Combine ingredients; pour over plenty of ice.
Mike’s Strawberry Banana 5 large fresh (or frozen) strawberries 1 ½ ripe bananas ½ c. milk ½ c. vanilla yogurt 5 ice cubes 1 ½ tbsp. sugar
Combine all ingredients except sugar and blend until smooth consistency. Add sugar and continue blending.
Chad’s Strawberry Orange 1/2 c. orange juice 6 oz. Sprite 5 large frozen strawberries
I must say that being completely ignorant about sports and living with two men (my husband and son) who know everything about sports, I am taking great delight in the fact that I chose UCLA, Florida, Georgetown, and Ohio State on my brackets to go to the final four. And let me also say, these were not CJ and Chad’s four picks.
It takes me all of about two minutes to fill out my brackets while CJ and Chad take much, much longer as they carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of each college team match-up, potential upsets, and whatever else they take into account. And yet, who’s winning? And did I mention that I won last year too? Wouldn’t you agree—there’s something to be said for my method?
And what does all this have to do with biblical womanhood? Well, I’m not really sure. But I just had to tell…so you could rejoice with me in my sweet victory over my men.
And if you’re curious about what team I chose to win it all, I picked Florida. Why? The reason has nothing to do about my knowledge of the Florida college team. I chose it because that’s the state where I grew up. Go Florida!!!
Well, Tori didn’t make her appearance during our “Noel Piper week” and it’s not looking like she will come this week either. As my doctor said this morning, “you’re going past your due date!”
I’m at forty weeks today and although the baby’s head is very low, not much else is happening. Also, given the way Tori’s head is facing right now she won’t fit, thus ruling out the option of a natural delivery. So, unless she rotates between now and next week, I am scheduled to have a c-section on Wednesday, April 4 at 8:00 a.m.
Whatever happens over the next week and a half, it’s wonderful to contemplate the fact that God has already ordained all of Tori’s days—including the day she will be born. Thank you once again for your prayers. I look forward to sharing the joy of Tori’s birth date with you.
Our Friday Funny for this week, sent to us by Joelle, reminded us of someone that we all know and love. This is just like something Nicole would do. Hee hee…
A few weekends ago, a good friend of mine from my childhood,
in town for a work conference and brought her mom with her, who is also
a family friend. My husband and I went out to eat with them on Saturday
night, and had a great time catching up. So, on Sunday, we decided to
have them over for lunch before they had to go to the airport. I
wanted to do some last minute cleaning before church, and decided to
dust, which I haven’t done in a long time! Really, it was a great idea
I thought, and I had the best of intentions.
I ran all over the
house like a mad woman, dusting everything I could find, from the TV,
to the lamps, to pictures on the wall. Then, after I was done getting
ready for church, I walked back through the living room, and I saw a
Raid (fresh scent of course) on the living room floor. You see, we have
a small bug problem in our condo when it rains a lot! So, I picked up
and was like, “What is this doing out?” Then, I realized….. I just
dusted the whole house with Raid instead of Pledge. Oh yea- I had just
sprayed that stuff all over the whole house. But, really, I had no idea
because you couldn’t really smell it—thanks to the fresh scent
My husband and I just couldn’t stop laughing about
this one. It topped the night I left dinner in the oven all night long
at 350 degrees, and the week after our wedding when I washed our brand
new pink and white bath towells in the same load! Thankfully the Lord
has given my husband a great sense of humor about life with me.
Catch y’all on Monday, Janelle for my mom and sisters
A stomach virus hit my baby girl in full force on Wednesday night. (Yes, this is the Book Club post. I’m getting there.) I awoke to her crying around midnight and her little stomach didn’t calm down (trying to put things delicately for all you easily grossed out people) until around 5 a.m. She is slowly recovering but wants Mommy to hold her or sit right next to her constantly. Lots of snuggle time!
While we are sharing many special moments together, the days have been long and required sacrifice. I have been tired from a lack of sleep and can’t get anything done unless Caly is napping. And when she is napping, something seems to pull me to my bed too! Caly isn’t thanking me; no one is here to watch and sing my praises.
But the Lord knew exactly what I needed to be reminded of. In chapter ten, when Sharon James describes Elizabeth’s novel, Stepping Heavenward, she writes: “The novel thus urged women to view every act of obedience, however humble, as an act of worship. This gave significance to all aspects of everyday life.” I was reminded that caring for my sick girl can be an act of worship to God. Motherhood is significant, regardless of how unglamorous or challenging, if done in obedience to God. Amazing!
This truth reaches far beyond sick kiddos. You may be sitting at work or school, or maybe you are carpooling or cleaning—doing tasks that don’t seem very important. If so, read these words again: “Your EVERY act of obedience, however humble, is an act of worship.” Rejoice in these opportunities to worship your Savior this day!
P.S. Read chapter 11 for next week. P.S.S. Picture of my sick girly…
Of course, reading the book is the best way to find out the answer to that question. The short answer is that if God is the center and treasure of our lives, that should (will?) reflect that reality in the way we choose to celebrate special occasions and to shape our everyday habits. With the book, I wanted to remind Christians of that and help them think about how it plays out.
Now that your children are grown, how have you seen the benefits of God-exalting traditions in your family life?
I believe that everything we do right in our family is, in some way pointing our children toward God. So the best thing I can see is that my children are following God and raising their children to treasure God.
If you had to pick, what would you say is your favorite Piper family tradition?
The one family tradition that I canNOT imagine abandoning is almost-daily family prayer/devotions. There are several related pieces to that tradition: Mealtime prayers Family devotions with whole family togethr Prayer time of just my husband and me together Personal devotional times for each person alone, including for the children
Your most recent book is Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God which is filled with fascinating stories of women of faith. How can we as women in the twenty-first century benefit from studying biographies of godly women from the past?
Hebrews 13:1-6 admonishes us to live godly lives and reminds us that God is our helper. Then verse 7 tells us one way that God helps us: Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us to look toward those who have gone before us in the faith, to listen to what they say about God and to look at the way they lived and to imitate their faith.
No one’s life is exactly like mine. And some lives seem too different to be of interest or use. But, when you consider a life, you discover similar emotions, fears, needs. For instance, I’m not afraid of imprisonment, but when I read about Esther Ahn Kim’s fear, I’m reminded how to deal with the things I AM afraid of.
I think that’s the point of the very next verse, Hebrews 13:8— Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.
My life is not exactly the same as any other person’s, but when I look at someone else’s life in a biography, it’s not ultimately her life I want to see. I want to see her Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Are you currently planning or working on another book you can tell us about?
I’m just starting to research the life of Betsey Stockton. As far as I know, no book has been written about her. She was an American-born black slave in the early 1800s, living in Princeton, NJ. She was freed soon after her conversion, and in 1823, became the 1st single woman to be sent out as a missionary in the American missionary movement, which had begun just a few years previous with the sending of Adoniram Judson. She went to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), expecting to spend her life there, but had to return to America after just a couple of years. Afterward, she became a matriarch in the black community of Princeton.
I would be very thankful for any sources or information that anyone can send me that might relate to her life and places.
Finally, and I saved the hardest one for last, what do you think is the most urgent need among Evangelical Christian women today?
One urgent need for men and women—but perhaps it’s more a problem for women—is to love and trust and seek God’s truth more than we depend on our own emotions. When I don’t understand or I hate the ways things are happening, I may want to think (even subconsciously), “I surely wouldn’t do things like that if I were God.” And then it would be easy for my emotions to tempt me to say, “Therefore, God is not good.”
We need to know that God is God, and we aren’t. We need to acknowledge that we don’t always understand why he acts as he does, but to trust that he sees everything and knows everything and has all power—AND that everything he does is good. That’s what he tells us in his Word, and his word is truth.
What is one question you wished I had asked and what is your answer?
Noël, what ministries are you involved with outside the church walls?
And my answer would be:
I get really excited about 2 kinds of ministry, and just recently the 2 have overlapped in an exhausting and exciting way.
1. For a long time, I have loved doing all sorts of missions travel. Usually I will be visiting missionary families or groups that include people sent from our church. Different trips have different emphases: prayer walks and personal prayer ministry perhaps or maybe speaking at a conference. Whatever the official form of a mission, I’m praying that a key impact will be that missionaries are encouraged and strengthened to continue the work and life God has given them. Always I learn lots about how God is working in other places and come back home knowing a little bit better how to pray for particular people and places.
2. In various ways over a lot of years, God has brought me more deeply into ministry to and with people with disabilities. For the last few years I’ve been on the Minnesota Board of Joni and Friends, which has been the primary channel for this sort of ministry.
These 2 kinds of ministry overlapped recently when I was part of a team distributing wheelchairs in Cameroon, West Africa. It’s a humbling thing to see people coming to you however they can get there—crawling on hands and knees, dragging themselves, being carried by someone not much larger than themselves—and to see that for these people mobility is more important than dignity . . . And then to see the faces when they were in their new chairs and could meet the world face to face. It made me stop and realize that almost everyone I know who uses a wheelchair would be moving like that—if they could move at all—without the blessing of a chair.
(I’m having to wipe my eyes looking again at this woman who couldn’t stop rejoicing.)
Noël, thank you so much for agreeing to be our first girl-to-girl talk interviewee. It’s been such a joy to get to know you a little better. We pray that God will continue to pour out His blessing on you and your family.
For our readers, we would encourage you to check out more resources by Noël Piper at www.desiringgod.org.
Today we want to welcome back Noël Piper for the second part of our interview…
Noël, when did your children come along and what was the most important lesson you learned as a young mother? What do you enjoy most about being a mother?
Our oldest was born when we had been married almost 4 years. On their birthdays this year, our sons will be 35, 32, 28, and 24. Talitha came to us when she was 2 months old, one month before my husband’s 50th birthday.
During their young years, when my days seemed to be shaped by interruptions, I’d often think: wiping runny noses and messy bottoms is not my calling; calling the refrigerator repairman and rescuing the spoiling contents of the fridge is not my calling; washing dishes is not my calling, walking through the dried remains of spilled koolaid is not my calling. At the end of a day, when I had done nothing—except those things and others like them—it could be pretty depressing. What’s the point when that’s all there is in life?
My only hope was remembering that when God gave me children, he called me to be a mother. His calling to a mother is that she be his servant, his tool, toward raising little boys and little girls to be godly men and women. One important thing for me to realize was that God is the only one who can bring our children to himself. But he gives me the privilege of being part of what he’s doing.
It helped to remember that every job has un-fun parts, including mothering. It really helped to look at somewhat older mothers and remind myself that there will be other chapters later, when I’m done with crushed cheerios underfoot.
Nowadays, one of my great pleasures is seeing my children and their wives enjoy each other.
You’ve raised four boys. What is one piece of advice you would give to mothers of sons?
Don’t get sucked into arguments, so that it starts to sound like 2 children squabbling instead of a mother with her child. For me, this was especially important with teenagers.
One important thing I learned was that I didn’t need to respond to every outrageous thing a son said. When my 14-year-old said he was going to buy a motorcycle as soon as he was 16, I gave myself a second to think, “Well, that’s not tomorrow.” And I said, “Mm-hmm.”
If it wasn’t something that needed imminent action or decision, I might say, “Well, you and Daddy and I can talk about that sometime.” But mostly, I’d just say, “Mm-hmm.” That’s non-committal and gives nothing for your child to argue about (Except when your son explodes, “That’s all you ever say—“Mm-hmm!”).
Tell us about adopting Talitha. How did this come about? What would you say to other couples contemplating adoption?
The short version is that we had been active in the pro-life movement for several years. Then when the opportunity came to adopt Talitha, we talked and prayed and consulted with our children and close friends for a couple of weeks. I had been wanting to adopt for some time, because I had felt a yearning to do something that involved more of my whole life than simply picketing in front of abortion clinics or gathering at rallies at the capitol, as right and good as those things were.
There were important factors to consider. One was our age, for instance, facing our child’s adolescence when we’re in our 60s. One was race; from the moment Talitha entered our family, we became a mixed race family and could never again complacently just be satisfied to let others live with and deal with difficult color issues.
Through adopting, I’ve realized things about parenting that I hadn’t thought about before. It’s an awesome thing to see the questions the court gives to adoptive parents, to pay attention to the pledges you make about the care and upbringing of this child and the responsibilities you promise to carry. Nobody ever asked me such pointed and particular questions before I up and got pregnant and had children that way.
I saw new significance and emotion in the Biblical picture of God’s adopting us. For example, the first time baby Talitha threw her arms around my neck and squeezed, my reflex thought was, “She knows I’m her mother!” I had never had that thought before about any of my other children. I just assumed they knew me as their mother. Now, think of God and the moment we “throw our arms around his neck” and know that he IS our Father.
You’ve been a pastor’s wife for 26 years now. We have many pastors’ wives who read our blog. What would you say to encourage them if you had the opportunity?
Several years ago, the wife of one of our young pastors was working full-time at a demanding job. As we talked about the stresses in their family, some other pastors’ wives and I raised the possibility that she should resign or at least cut back to part time. We knew how erratic a pastor’s schedule can be, which makes it valuable for his wife to have a more dependable time at home. Otherwise, they are both stressed by their work outside the home, and may never see each other.
On the other hand, if the wife is not employed full-time, she is able to participate in appropriate ways with or alongside her husband, which is a great encouragement to him. This is an intangible, that we couldn’t describe to her exactly or measure out what its value would be.
She named the factors that made it impossible for them to live on just his salary. We told her to pray about God’s will here, because we couldn’t be sure we knew what was best for her. We encouraged her not be be afraid about finances, that if it was good for her to cut back at work, God would provide money in ways she couldn’t expect.
Later, she did cut back and eventually resign. God has provided. And they have been part of our staff for all the years since. And she has been an active part of her husband’s ministry.
So, I guess my encouragement is this: Your presence and support and availability is an intangible but vital ministry to your husband, and therefore to your church as well.
What would you tell women about how to best support their pastor’s wife?
When we first came to Bethlehem in 1980, we were in our early 30s and the church was mostly people over 60. They were eager for a young pastor and his energy. It would have been easy for them to expect lots from me too. But they were kind to me. Lots of people approached me about working in their ministry area or leading another ministry area or taking on one responsibility or another. But always they asked the question in a way that did not assume I should be doing this because I was the pastor’s wife. They would let me know about openings and opportunities, but in a way that left me free to say, “Thank you for telling me about this. I will pray about it,” or just to say, “I’m glad to know about what’s happening in that area, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to be involved right now.”
In other words, the people of Bethlehem gave me the gift of letting me follow God’s leading into or not-into specific ministry areas, rather than feeling like they were expecting or pushing me.
Your husband is not only a pastor, but an author. You have a writing gift yourself (which we’ll get to in a moment) but I’ve heard John say that you are his most valuable editor. How have you been able to use this gift to serve your husband?
Here’s one of the many differences between my husband and me. He depends heavily on spell-check. But I can’t stand the squiggly underlinings questioning me at every turn when I’ve said exactly what I mean to say. In any case, spell-check can’t tell you when a sentence is ambiguous or when an extra word has slipped in that changes the meaning of a sentence. It takes a human reader to do that.
At some point in a book’s production, I read it through carefully. My husband is such a good writer that there are seldom, if ever, major changes to be made. But every writer needs someone else to proofread and edit, because an author knows so well what he intended to write that that’s what he tends to “see” instead of what he actually did write.
After being a part of Johnny’s speaking, teaching, and writing life so long, it can be easier for me to catch things another editor might not recognize as a mistake. But I’m familiar with what I think he meant to say, so I can check it with him.
It can be perversely pleasurable as a proofreader to search out and highlight other people’s errors. So I try to be kind in my corrections and comments.
OK, I’m going to put you on the spot here…what is your favorite John Piper book and why?
I especially enjoy reading the books in the Swan Series—the biographies. I often find it easier to see how God is working in my life (or how I want him to be working) when I see it happening in somebody else’s life.
Please join us tomorrow for the final portion of our chat with Noël Piper.
We are so excited to welcome Noël Piper to our first girl-to-girl talk interview.
Noël has been married to pastor and author John Piper for thirty-eight years. She has also served alongside her husband at Bethlehem Baptist Church for the past twenty-six years. Noël, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with the girltalk readers!
First of all, Noël, we’d love to hear a little about your growing up years. I know you grew up with nine brothers and sisters! What was it like being a part of a big family? How would you describe your childhood? What about your early life at home prepared your heart to receive the gospel?
What was it like being part of a big family? Perfectly normal, as far as I knew. God gave me to my family and my family to me and that’s the way it was. Being the oldest of 10 was probably my best training for being a mother. The regular Christian traditions in my family and the examples of my parents were the most important human factors in my becoming a Christian. We had family devotions each night before the youngest went to bed, and we went to church every Sunday and Wednesday.
I can look back now and realize that those steady practices were like anchors when our family was going through rough times. We kept doing what we’d always done, sometimes maybe just because it was too hard to say, “Let’s don’t.” I learned that even when we don’t really feel like being together in God’s Word or praying together, God uses those times to bring healing and reconciliation and peace—even when it takes a long time.
(In this picture I’m the cool college girl in the middle with way too much bangs. The 1957 Ford wagon off on the right is the car that suffered my first accident.)
When and how did you become a Christian?
I was very young and can’t remember much of what I was thinking or feeling. Here are some “shapshots.”
I’m 5 and telling my Daddy I want to be baptized just like my cousin Jane, who is a couple of years older. He pulls me into his lap, explaining there’s more to baptism than just deciding to do it.
Some time after that, I’m sitting on the kitchen steps, weeping. Mother hurries out to see what’s wrong. “I’m so sad about all the bad things I’ve done.”
Another time, I am standing in my closet (Literally. Isn’t that what the Bible says to do?), wanting to confess my sins to God. But I’ve done this before. Does the Bible mean that I have to remember every sin I’ve ever done every time I confess to God. What if I can’t remember everything?
On my 7th birthday, I am baptized in Milner Baptist Church. Afterward, the whole congregation files by to shake hands with the ones who had been baptized. They are singing “Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.”
How did you end up in Illinois at Wheaton College?
That’s a story that shows how God uses our less-than-spiritual desires to bring about his good plans in our lives. Hardly anybody in my rural 36-student senior class was going to college, and if they were, they were staying in Georgia. I was writing for information from colleges I found advertised in Christian magazines at home. Mainly I wanted to go far away—I was ready to be on my own without my parents telling me what to do. Interestingly, as I look back I realize that I chose a college that had pretty much their same standards. So while I could indeed make more choices for myself instead of my parents telling me what to do, still those choices were within boundaries that were comfortable to me.
What were your hopes, dreams, and plans for your life as you embarked upon your college experience? How did those plans change once you met John Piper?
My mother and both my grandmothers were examples of women whose liberal arts college degrees were excellent preparation for all that God gave them in their lives, sometimes job or career, mostly marriage and family. I assumed and hoped that one day I would be married and at home with our children. I also held out the possibility that I might have a career (which changed every time I changed my major), without thinking through how the two would mix.
Would you be willing to briefly relate the story of you and John’s relationship from the time you met until you were married? Were there any funny/memorable moments you’d be willing to share?
Maybe the funniest happened before I met him. When I was a college freshman, I declared to my friends that I would wait a few years after college to get married, so I could see the world first (Assumption: nothing happens after you get married). AND, I would certainly never marry a preacher.
So, I met Johnny Piper the day after that freshman year ended and we got married during the Christmas break just as I was finishing college. (Since then, I’ve lost count of the number of states and countries I’ve visited). At the time of our wedding, I had my wish not to marry a preacher—that didn’t come until 11 1/2 years after we were married.
Everyone would probably ask…what’s it like being married to John Piper? I mean, is he sharing profound thoughts at the dinner table? What do you love most about your husband?
The answer is similar to a couple of the earlier answers. First, perfectly normal, as far as I know. God gave me to Johnny and him to me. And second, it’s an even better story of how God uses our less-than-spiritual desires to do wonderful things for us.
I was a silly, fairly shallow girl who wanted fun more than much of anything else. I don’t think I would have gotten involved with a non-Christian, but I wasn’t much more discerning than that. So when I met a cute, curly-haired guy who liked me, that was enough for me. In fact, it was extra cute how he thought so seriously about things, on the one hand, and on the other, how he played a wild game of charades and sang and moved his arms and shoulders (we didn’t dance) to the Beach Boys.
God was gracious to give me a man who would be his main tool for bringing toward maturity both me and my spiritual understanding.
Yes, sometimes Johnny’s sharing profound thoughts at the dinner table. More often, he’s figuring out how the father who’s used to boys shifts gears and communicates with an 11-year-old daughter.
And that is one of the things I love most about him. He cares about being a good father and husband, and he doesn’t let our moods and attitudes put him off. He cares about our being happy. And I know that at the root is his love for God.
Come back tomorrow to hear Noël share about her children and her reflections on being a pastor’s wife…
We are very excited about a new feature here at girltalk. On occasion we will introduce you to godly women who are making a significant difference in the lives of others both in the church and in our culture. We’re calling it girl-to-girl talk.
Today we want you to meet the first of these godly women: Noël Piper. Noël is a pastor’s wife, mother, and author, and over the next few days we have the delightful opportunity of getting to know her better.
To begin, we want to share a brief profile of Noël’s life along with several pictures. Then, over the next three days, we will post portions of an interview with Noël.
So pull up a chair if you will, and join us at Noël’s kitchen table. We know you are going to thoroughly enjoy learning and laughing along with this godly woman.
You probably know me as: John Piper’s wife
I’ve been married for: 38 years
My children are: 4 adult sons—all married with 7 children among them, and our 11-year-old daughter
I was born in: Norfolk Virginia and grew up in Barnesville, GA
The “non-spiritual” book I most enjoyed reading was: Bad memory again—it would probably have been a historical fiction saga or a multigenerational family memoir/saga.
Right now I am reading: Whatever I can find about Betsey Stockton and her early-1800s settings in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and Princeton.
The movie I’ve watched more times than any other is:The Princess Bride (my children made me!)
The music (genre/artist) you’re most likely to find me listening to is: Mountain/old-time country gospel (when I’m by myself) or maybe 1960s folk.
My favorite food is: Chocolate eclairs (filled with custard, not cream)
My favorite morning beverage is: Strong coffee with cream or Yorkshire tea with milk
The household chore I most enjoy is: Enjoy? I’ll have to think on that—- a looooong time.
If I have free time, you’ll most likely find me: Reading or—more recently—you’d find me online arranging my computer “piles” of photos into photobooks that, when I’m done, we can actually hold in our hands, turn pages, and see the best pictures without plowing through hundreds of others.
My favorite place in the world is: Anywhere with a book and the sight and sound of water.
A Bible verse I return to often is: Romans 8:38-39—“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Woman I most want to be like: The one who’s on my mind right now is Joni Eareckson Tada. Probably no one but she and Ken, her caregivers and God really know how limited the hours of her day are once her basic physical needs have been dealt with. And only she and God know how limited her strength and stamina are. I find myself dragging at the imagination of it. And yet she travels frequently, and whenever she is with people, she gives herself wholeheartedly, smiling, greeting, giving an appropriate and upbuilding word. When you see Joni, you see the joy of the Lord. It has to be his, because she has every legitimate human reason to be a quiet, stay-at-home, reserving her strength.
In last week’s book club discussion we asked you to send us your story of how a woman brought you the “consolation of Christ” in the midst of difficulty. Thank you for your entries—it was very moving to read each one! Although it is always hard to choose, we thought you would be blessed to hear from another Elise (read a testimony from yesterday’s Elise here) and how her pastor’s wife and her mother faithfully cared for her during a trying time.
Don’t forget to read chapter 10 for next week.
I have been privileged to be carried and cared for by many over the past two and a half years, but two women in particular stand out as ladies who brought me the “consolation of Christ” (I’m sorry I can’t pick just one!) and those would be Nancy Loftness and my mom, Pam Ecrement.
Briefly, my story is one certainly many have shared… the joy of pregnancy, my fourth child and the overwhelming news at our 20 week sonogram that something was wrong. First, our son appeared to have only one finger, an arm that was significantly shorter than the other side, a foot that was twisted laterally in half and because all of these vascular defects were on one side, the prognosis was not good. Various “syndromes” were predicted and we were asked if we were comfortable with continuing the pregnancy.
Throughout the remaining weeks of pregnancy we saw specialist after specialist and had numerous additional sonograms and tests. Often the appointments would reveal information that was worse or more sketchy than the previous with one doctor even professing that our child might not live past the first several hours.
But God took care of all of us and healed Nathan (our son) of much! When he was born, all that remained was a limb deficiency in his right hand. He was born with only 1 ½ fingers… but everything else was fine and he was and remains an absolute joy. A marvelous testimony of God’s grace and healing power.
We have had four reconstructive surgeries on his hand since (Nathan is now 2.) with an additional 3-8 more in the coming years. It was a season we didn’t choose for ourselves, but God sovereignly ordained for His good and His glory and two women helped me to keep that focus, my pastor’s wife, Nancy Loftness and my mom, Pam Ecrement.
Nancy Loftness prayed with me numerous times prior to Nathan’s birth, walked me through fear, helped me keep my eyes focused on God when my circumstances pulled to have the focus on me. When I gave into anxiety and fear, she was there to pull me out. She always had a timely word, always a timely scripture. She came to the hospital when Nathan was born and has encouraged me as I’ve sought to care for not only Nathan, but my other children in navigating surgeries which took place hundreds of miles from home. Nancy asked questions, gave godly council and helped me stay focused on the cross. We didn’t simply survive as a family, but thrived as a result of folks who cared for us and carried us like Nancy.
My mom was instrumental too as she cried with me, laughed with me and was the first, outside of my husband to look at Nathan’s hand and give glory to God at His marvelous, yet different design. She encouraged me and cared for me, by helping me to formulate questions I’d need answers to in navigating Nathan’s care. She listened to me cry and gave glory to the Lord with me at each turn. She was and remains always there. She shared our need with others and gathered others to pray and sought to care for me practically the many weeks we were in Ohio around Nathan’s surgeries, always taking off work, always putting the needs of our family before she and Dad’s. We did “no make-up, no fixed hair” days and should have bought stock in Starbucks. We began working through Girl Talk during these trips and shared blurry nights comforting my son, discussing aging and reminiscing about when I was his age. How fast time has flown.
Friends who provide this balm to those whose trials loom large can never know the depths to which their care can impact hearts. God has never been more real to me than he has been these last two years. What a privilege to have these (and several dear others who know who they are) ladies near. What a joy to learn dependence and submission to God’s will and be released from my own. There’s peace there and so much more.
Okay, teens, this one’s for you. At a recent youth meeting at Covenant Life Church, my friend, Elise, gave her testimony on submission to her parent’s authority. It was outstanding!
I have known Elise for many years and I have observed her live out the words of this testimony. When I spoke to her on the phone this morning she shared with me her longing to encourage her generation to submit to their parent’s leadership as a gift from God. You have my deepest respect, Elise.
Girls, consider using this testimony to begin a discussion with your parents about submission. Ask them for their thoughts on how you are doing in this area. The Lord promises to bless your humility (James 4:6).
My testimony is simply one of the grace of God. There is no other explanation for the growth and joy I have experienced in the area of submission. The only reason I can stand up here right now is because the Lord has been merciful and kind to me.
Growing up, I was a very compliant and outwardly submissive child. I didn’t throw temper tantrums, yell at my parents, or purposefully rebel against them. For the most part I just obeyed without putting up a fight, but only because I had to. It wasn’t until about 9th grade that I really started to understand the importance of submission and the joy that could be found in obedience. I can’t tell you exactly what prompted this new realization. It might have been a series of messages, or a specific talk with my parents, but if nothing else, it was God’s work of softening my heart. I had regarded submission as a duty; the Lord showed me that it was a joy and a privilege. I learned to view the wisdom and guidance of my parents as wisdom and guidance from God. The more I realized that God actively speaks through my parents, the more seriously I viewed their instruction. Once I began to submit with joy it became easier and easier to obey not only with my actions, but also with my attitude. Obedience and submission to my parents brought a joy and freedom to my heart that I had never experienced before.
In addition to spiritual fruit, there were many other ways that I benefited from honoring and obeying my mom and dad. Throughout high school there was a level of trust that developed between me and my parents. As they saw me being faithful to submit, they began to give me more responsibilities and more freedom. The funny thing is, the more freedom I got, the less I wanted it. Now that I’m in college, my parents continually release me to make my own decisions. But the truth is, I hardly ever make decisions without consulting them first. Why? Because I know that they are wiser than I am, that they are a gift from the Lord, and that I will be blessed as a result.
Perhaps the greatest way I benefited from joyful submission was through a strong relationship with my parents. I grew to love being open with them, listening to their instruction, and submitting to their guidance. Today I can honestly tell you that my parents are my best friends. There are no two people whom I love or respect more!
At some point during high school I can remember reading the beginning of Ephesians 6 which says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” I remember being shocked by how true the promise was. It had gone well with me! I’m not going to pretend like it was always easy to submit to and obey my parents. It wasn’t. And it still isn’t. But, no one ever said that humility is easy. And as Christians we aren’t called to a life of ease, but to a life of obedience and trust. I wish I could show you the peace and fulfillment that come with trusting the promises of God! He has given us our parents in order to teach us to distrust our hearts, to protect us, and to bless us. In fact, God specifically promises to bless us when we obey! The more I realize this, the more I want to submit to my parents’ authority! The reality is we will always be under authority, even in heaven. Learning to submit now will not only make it easier here on earth, but it will better prepare us for our eternal home where we will be under the authority of God for all of eternity.
The Lord promises that when we obey it will go well with us. God cannot and will not go back on His promise! So, from one weak sinner to another: trust the Lord, submit to your parents, and it will go well with you!